Interview: APOM’S Chantelle & Kelvin Share What It’s Like To Be Couplepreneurs

Interview: APOM’S Chantelle & Kelvin Share What It’s Like To Be Couplepreneurs

Find a dream that means more than money- Chantelle & Kelvin, Founders of APOM

What happens when a dreamer and executor work together? Even better, build a business and family together? Something as wacky, funny and amazing as apom.my is born!

APOM, short for A Piece Of Malaysia is a home-grown brand that proudly highlights the essence of Malaysian culture and all things Malaysia via a range of products such as tee-shirts, rompers, caps, bags, stickers, souvenirs, and mugs.

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What sets APOM apart from other merchants in Malaysia? It embraces all things quintessentially Malaysian, throws in a pun and has a kick out of the product. APOM is fast becoming popular among locals and tourists who are attracted to the gutsy puns and illustrations which has become its trademark.

For instance: Lingos such as Lah, Alamak, Aiseyman, On The Way, Cun, Chup, Wa Lao, Macam Yes, Kantoi, Buaya Danger, Syok Sendiri and typical Malaysian characterisations such as Mak Cik Bawang, Mr Dato, Encik Bedal, Mr Thani and Little Miss Sombong.

There are also delightful parodies of famous brands such as Huat Wei, Mahalbro, Supweh, Mamypokai, Samseng and Just Duit.

Chantelle and Kelvin are the founders of APOM. Apart from building a business from scratch, the couple also raised a family with two kids simultaneously.

And, there couldn’t be a better time to know more about being partners in life and business than this Valentine’s Day! So, get ready for some tips on #businessgoals and #relationshipgoals!

Meet the dreamer Kelvin and executor Chantelle

Interview couplepreneurs

Name: Chantelle Teoh

Age: 36

Education: BA Communication Design (RMIT Australia)

Origin: Melaka

 

 

Interview couplepreneurs

Name: Kelvin Victor Long

Age: 44

Education: Advertising, Industrial Design

Origin: Kuala Lumpur

 

Fun Fact: They met on Facebook through a dating group that Kelvin and his friend started!

Surprisingly, APOM is not the couple’s first business venture. Earlier, Kelvin was running an advertising agency while Chantelle was managing her family’s printing business.

Soon after they started dating, the pair worked on a side project to pursue their entrepreneurial passion. Doof Industries, which sells beanbags were their first retail brand. Launched in 2007, Doof gave them the kick start needed for APOM.

Amidst expanding Doof, starting and expanding APOM, Chantelle and Kelvin got married and had kids. So, they are now full-time entrepreneurs and parents!

When asked what led to the decision to dive into entrepreneurship together, Kelvin revealed that he has always wanted to be in a business with his wife. As someone who looks at career and life as the same thing, he is glad that he gets to spend most of the day with his wife who is also his best friend.

Meanwhile, Chantelle is all business as she had previously handled a family business with other family members. Her love to create added oil to her journey through two business ventures and seeing the demand for APOM, she dived straight in!

Couples in business need synergy

But, of course, not all is breezy when it comes to business. The couple faced challenges right from Day 1. On dealing with the constant challenges, Chantelle said, “It’s taking those progressive steps, knowing each other’s strengths and leaning on each other when we need emotional support. We definitely wouldn’t have made this far alone and we have been lucky to have our breaks, a great team and taking chances when opportunity arises.”

Intrigued, we probed further on what they consider a good day and bad day at work.

Kelvin elaborated that a good day involves brainstorming and seeing ideas coming to life while a bad day is when expectations are not met.

Chantelle put it in simple words: A good day = good sales. A bad day = bad sales.

It is obvious that the team of two has a synergy between them that works like a charm!

Their 5-year plan includes:

  • Elevating APOM to be the go-to shop for locals and tourists for all things cool and unique about our country
  • Showing locals and tourists that Malaysian culture-themed products can be way more interesting than the current landscape
  • Having a presence in the key cities throughout the country

To achieve these goals, their strategy is simple. According to Chantelle, being clear about the mission and vision of the business will lead to customers resonating with it. When they fully endorse the business message, they will naturally play a part by sharing photos of the products in their social media feed.

Undeniably, APOM is well-loved by many Malaysians for being artsy and of high-quality!

Interview couplepreneurs

Hard work and trust in each other

They worked hard, trusted each other and successfully built a business together. Apart from well-managed social media accounts such as Facebook and Instagram, APOM is also physically present in Bangsar Village 1 and Suria KLCC.

Expanding the business, reaching more audience and opening new stores call for celebration for any business, but Chantelle’s response when asked about the most satisfying moments since they started APOM back in 2017 was centered on taking APOM from concept to reality.

“Creating products that are ballsy and humorous and watching people laugh at the products we create and telling us how much they love it. Also meeting so many local talents and working together through collaborations and striving to be the platform to propel each other forward,” said Chantelle.

Their secret to making this union in life and business successful

Q: How has your partnership impacted the business?

What makes or breaks a business is finding the right partner. This makes sense both in life and in business. We have come this far because we share the same vision and values, we both have different strengths and respect each other with our roles. Not only do we run the business but we also share the same values in parenting of being there with our kids as much as we can. We want to be hands on with the business and also as parents. Sharing these values makes the journey easier and rewarding.

Q: What are your strengths/differences and how do you put it to work?

Kelvin is more the dreamer and conceptual thinker and I like to see that things just don’t stay dreams. Kelvin likes to start with “Wouldn’t it be cool if we started a beanbag brand?”  And I will show up with the tools the next day and say “Don’t just talk, here are the tools and fabric, let’s get started”. On the creative side of things, Kelvin likes to put the ballsyness to the ideas and I am the funny one who puts in the humour and realises the idea. Our products is a great mix of both.

Q: Are there any ground rules between you when it comes to running the business together?

None really, I guess mutual respect, no unnecessary drama, and work towards a common goal.

Q: How do you balance between work and personal life, when both of you are equally invested in the business?

We both enjoy spending time together, either for work or personally, so that helps. So much of our current lives revolves around work and kids. Sometimes the lines between personal and work gets blurred and there really is no difference between work and personal. It just becomes life.

Q: How has the business affected your relationship?

It takes a lot of understanding. We know when we need time alone, or when we need support. It has definitely made things between us stronger. We deal with issues daily, whether business related, or family related, we are at it 24/7 together. Just like life there are ups and downs, we just need to get through each hurdle in life and in business.

How do they tackle money issues?

Interview couplepreneurs

Dealing with finances always becomes even more challenging when a partner comes into the picture. But, Chantelle and Kalvin have to deal with finances as a couple, and as business partners.

Here’s how they manage their finances on the home and business front.

Q: Could you share an incident where lack of money/ financial oversight challenged your business?

Let’s just say it’s a balancing act every single day.

Q: What are the financial challenges you faced back when you started out and now? How do you tackle it?

The financial challenges are different at different stages of the business according to how we want to steer the business. Back when we first started out, we project and review on a shorter time frame. Now the stakes are higher and the financial plans are for longer term.

Q: What is your money mantra in business?

What’s the ROI in everything we do. Sell sell sell!

Q: How do you deal with finances in your relationship?

Kelvin spends and I save. Yin and yang, balance in the force.
Q: Any advice for couples/youngsters who want to venture into business?
For couples- A good way to tell if your partner is compatible with you is to start a business with them. You will see every trait of that person and it’s great if you can work together. Find out if you share the same values and dreams together because during tough times, these will get you through.

For youngsters- Find what you enjoy doing and find it as early as you can, don’t get stuck in one thing, and it’s ok to change your passion. Get your hands dirty especially when you are young. It’s ok to not like what you do, but make sure you don’t settle, and try to find something you are passionate about.

Find a dream that means more than money.

Finally, what they don’t tell each other …

We asked Chantelle and Kelvin separately to answer some rapid-fire questions and their answers show why their synergy works in life and business – together.

Your biggest splurge?
K: Tech.

C: My kids’ extra-curricular activities.

Your money regrets?
K: Not learning how to invest in stock.

C: Should have started entrepreneurship earlier.

Your inspiration?
K: Seeing the potential of the country.

C: Our customers, good design.

Early retirement?
K: In my dreams.

C: If my kids tells me they want to take over the business.

Aim for 2020?
K: Airports

C: Expansion

There you go. We often hear that being business partners and life partners can get messy- either in the business or the relationship.

But, Chantelle and Kelvin have shown that with focus, dedication, passion and mutual respect, it is possible.

After all, as a famous writer, C. S. Lewis said,

“Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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